1. I’ll admit, I was caught off-guard this morning when I realized upon reading Craig Calcaterra’s piece on Hardball Talk that this is the 10th anniversary of that unforgettable day in Red Sox history. It’s not the holy-cow-that-was-really-a-decade-ago aspect that threw me off, since those Sox have been celebrated at a various points this season. The curveball to me was the reminder that the game happened in late July. It had always seemed, I don’t know, sooner in the season to me, certainly not before the trade deadline. But it’s true: Nomar was still hobbling through the summer — he hit fifth that day, even delivering a crucial double in the ninth inning — and the Sox were still 8.5 games back in the division when the game was over. Maybe it just seemed earlier in my memory because there was still so much more left to come.
2. Was it a turning point? Absolutely, but in the macro sense more than the micro. The brawl, and the we’re-not-gonna-take-it change in mind-set captured so perfectly in this instantly iconic image, stands as a moment when the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry shifted from hammer vs. nail to hammer vs. hammer. For some of us, in that grand sense, the photo represents when the Red Sox finally began standing up to the Yankees … and soon thereafter conquered them. But in the context of that point in time in the 2004 season, it really wasn’t a turning point. The Sox won their next two games, then promptly lost 3 of 4. and 5 of 8 while trading their once-beloved shortstop in the middle of it all. The chaos of the fight did not instantly halt the chaos of the Red Sox’ season. They only began to roll a couple of weeks later.
3. Out of proper respect, all Red Sox fans should be required to change their screen-saver back to the above photo today — that is, if it hasn’t been your screen-saver every day for the last 10 years, which I suppose is possible.
4. Varitek always refused to autograph that photo, explaining that he feels like the image of him fighting sets a bad example for his daughters. I suppose that’s the right thing to do as a father, but as a ballplayer — hell, as a human being — there can’t be many more satisfying feelings than putting A-Rod in his place. I’m surprised Derek Jeter didn’t covertly thank Varitek in the brawl’s aftermath. I know this: There is absolutely no chance — none — that he regrets doing it, though he might admit that A-Rod put up more of a fight than he expected.
5. Every hitter in the Red Sox starting lineup that day had an OPS of at least .769 (Trot Nixon owned the lowest), and five hitters (Manny Ramirez, Ortiz, Johnny Damon, Kevin Millar, and Varitek) were at .813 or higher. Quite a contrast to the lineup John Farrell ran out there last night against the Blue Jays. Mike Napoli (.854) and David Ortiz (.852) were tops, but six hitters, including Dustin Pedroia, were at .700 or lower. Gripe all you want about the authenticity of that era of offense, but it was a hell of a lot more fun to watch than this.
6. Damndest thing about that day? Ramiro Mendoza, the relentlessly aggravating embedded Yankee, was the winning pitcher, while Mariano Rivera, foreshadowing an October failing to come against Bill Mueller in particular, took the loss.
7. Kenny Lofton, who played 83 games for the Yankees in 2004, was the unsung antagonist of the fight, taking a shot at any unsuspecting Red Sox player he could find, then retreating to safety. In that sense, he was the Mickey Rivers of his time.
8. Only four players who played for the Red Sox or Yankees in 2004 have played a major-league game this season. Two are obvious — Jeter and Ortiz. You probably guessed injured D-Backs pitcher/would-be Goo Goo Dolls frontman Bronson Arroyo, too. But I’d forgotten about Jason Giambi, who is currently on the 60-day disabled list for the Indians, probably because he should have retired about three years ago.
9. Sometimes that season feels like just a couple of yesterdays ago. And sometimes — such as when the players show up at a reunion looking considerably different than they did when our October memories were made — it feels like all of 10 years, maybe even a little longer. I mean, Tom Gordon is a grandfather. Frank Castillo, who pitched twice for the Red Sox that April, died last July. Time passes. But in our memories — and on those championship DVDs — the scenes never change, never get old. Thank goodness for that.
10. As for today’s Completely Random Baseball Card:
Quite the quartet there. Sturtze, as you may recall, was the Yankees’ starting pitcher that day, and the Worcester native was involved in a bloody offshoot of the brawl when he tangled with the tag-team of Trot Nixon and Gabe Kapler. As proof that Facebook’s algorithms have their bugs, Sturtze recently showed up on my page as a suggested friend. The dude looks bigger now than he was then, and he was a truck then. Almost makes me wonder if he’s fixing for a 10th-anniversary rematch.